A few days before season two was set to go live, the Degrassi powers that be announced that one of the new episodes would be a reunion, featuring many of the former cast members from The Next Generation. This was to celebrate the show's 500th(!) episode, a total slam dunk move to get some buzz going over to their new home on Netflix. They did a solid job of intertwining the current storylines with these cameos, but the event was a bit oddly placed in order to make it number 500. The heavy racism arc that has been building since episode one was muddled by the kitschy nostalgia — and vice versa. On the positive end though, the reunion added some much-needed lightness, while the current students added some context for our alums to return, albeit briefly.
Without further ado though, let's do a quick catch-up with the former Degrassians who came out for the school's 60th anniversary gala, in order of appearance:
Liberty Van Zandt ('07): The type-A former student council president is currently in law school. She's also apparently the captain of her school's ultimate frisbee team (we believe it).
Holly J Sinclair ('11): No concrete update on the life of Ms. Sinclair, which is unfortunate since she is arguably one of the best characters in the entire series. We don't know what happened with her and Declan in the end, but we do know that hair still looks amazing.
Peter Stone ('08): We actually already saw Peter this season, as Maya's mentor for her co-op at his recording studio in downtown Toronto.
Craig Manning (dropped out): One of Degrassi's OG hunks, it appears that he's still playing music professionally, performing his song "Rescue You" for the gala. Tristan's starstruck reaction to it means that he was at least somewhat famous down the line, although currently, it's unclear. He could easily be the Semisonic of this school.
Mo Mashkour ('13): Once a class clown, always a class clown, Mo shows up for the gala with a stand-up routine (before he drops out, more on that later). He also casually admitted to experimenting with drugs in university. Whatever it takes!
Sav Bhandari ('11): We only see him briefly, playing bass during a rehearsal of the school song with Peter, Jonah, and Frankie. However, he drops out once Frankie's racism scandal is revealed. He doesn't want to get tagged in any photos with her because he wants to get into politics one day. Guess his affair with a teacher won't come up then?
Marco Del Rossi ('06): During season nine, Marco came back to Degrassi as a student teacher, so it's safe to assume that he's probably teaching somewhere. The only thing this episode told us is that he listens to podcasts (don't forget it's 2016, guys). Can we also talk about how this would be his actual high school reunion year? If that's not a testament to Degrassi's legacy, we don't know what is.
Paige Michalchuk ('06): She got more screen time than most of the alums, but spent it calling back to the time she slapped Marco and joking that one of her high school mistakes was dating Spinner. Snooooze.
Spinner Mason ('07): Despite the ridiculousness that was his quickie wedding to Emma in Degrassi Takes Manhattan, they are indeed still married. He even called her stepdad Mr. Simpson "Dad."
Terri MacGregor (transferred): Of the dozens of characters to choose to mention only by name, this was the most perplexing. It's said that she's speaking at the gala, but she left Degrassi for another school sophomore year. Why her?
Manny Santos ('07): Another person only mentioned by name, she drops off of the gala performance list as well. Holly J says she's bummed because she wanted to hear her sing. They weren't at the school at the same time, so she must be well-known for it?
Emma Nelson ('07): As mentioned, she and Spinner are still married. They made sure to make that abundantly clear with another reference to going to Sunday dinner with him at her parents' house (all right, we get it).
All in all, a solid showing, but it hardly felt worth the effort for the actors to come to set. With as many characters as there have been and only so much time, it's not a total surprise that we didn't get the full details. However, it seems like it's time to get some Degrassi fan fiction going and fill in the gaps of where they've been all this time.
Now, back to our current students. In a nice callback to the very first Next Generation episodes, we find Tristan welcoming the alumni to the 60th anniversary celebration at the school. The first to arrive are Liberty and Holly J, two former powerhouse class presidents that make him understandably fanboy. He excitedly offers to give them the full tour, when he trips over Lola, who is sitting on the ground. When he asks her to move, she says she's organizing a sit-in to protest her boyfriend Tiny's zero-tolerance punishment for getting into a fight on her behalf. Grace sees what's happening and also joins in, citing the fact that Frankie Hollingsworth didn't get punished for her racist drawing, but Tiny got five days for self-defense. When Tristan says they can't do this now, Liberty jumps into action, scolding him for getting in the way of their right to protest. In turn, she sits down with them.
Elsewhere in the school, Jonah finds his girlfriend, Frankie, reading the book So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. She tells him that the book is definitely making her feel better, but she's still being called "Hollingsracist" and "Ku Klux Fran" (whoa). She knows she needs to let it blow over, but she also misses her friends. She thinks that she wants to try to do something good so people will forget the bad, but she isn't sure what. No sooner does she say that than Peter Stone walks up with a voiceless Maya, who got laryngitis just before she was supposed to sing the school song at the gala. He asks if they know anyone who can fill in, and she enthusiastically volunteers.
Later, Lola is at her family's restaurant with Tiny. She tells him that the principal stepped in and said they can protest, just not inside the school. After asking him what his preferred hashtag would be, he realizes he doesn't want to become the poster child (literally) of this movement. He wasn't totally innocent, and he's willing to take the punishment. Although she wants to make up for her role in it all (y'know, inviting the other guy to bring her pizza at school) she begrudgingly agrees. She returns back to school to tell everyone, who were already well into their sign-making. They argue that it's not about Tiny, it's about how the school treats someone like Tiny versus someone like Frankie. Unless she can come up with an argument for how the school is not racist, then they're going to move forward.
Back inside, rehearsals are coming along for the gala. After Craig Manning and his hunkiness leave the stage, Mo is called up to do his stand-up set. It starts off generally enough, talking about how things have changed and that "kids these days" can just Uber a girlfriend to their math class (don't forget, it's 2016 guys). He starts to talk about the protest outside and, desperate to retain a positive image, Tristan cuts him off, insisting that those are just a few angry students that don't represent the school. Taken aback, Mo decides that he doesn't want to represent the school this way, and quits. Later on, it's revealed that Tristan has a similar run-in with Manny, whose song about teenage pregnancy was "too negative" for the show. That doesn't stop him from keeping Frankie on the show to sing the school song, even after the alumni band (Peter and Sav) drop out because of her racist drawings against Northern Tech that got her kicked off the volleyball team.
While Lola and Shay are outside discussing if they should move forward with the protest, Marco and Paige overhear them talking about the zero-tolerance policy. Marco and his supersonic hearing butt in, sharing that he heard in a recent podcast that zero-tolerance has been shown to not be executed fairly. A white student is three times more likely to get an exemption from the policy than a nonwhite student, and girls are six times more likely. After hearing those stats, they confront Principal Simpson. He insists that Tiny's punishment was not because he was black, but because he got in a fight. There's nothing more to say. Frustrated, Lola decides she needs to make people listen, and joins up again with the protest outside. Her renewed passion is able to convince Emma and a skeptical Tiny to get behind the cause as well.
Inside, the gala is kicking off with a remarkably small crowd for a celebration of 60 years, but we digress. Frankie nervously waits backstage, unsure if she's made the right decision to put herself out there. She decides to go for a walk, which is where she sees one of the protesters wearing a sign that says "white privilege" with her picture on it. She tries to get away quickly, but is stopped by Spinner and Paige, who recognize her from the sign. They see the need to impart some wisdom, telling her she can't run away from her mistakes. If you're going to make mistakes, this is a great place to do it, as long as you learn from them. "So, you think I can make through?" asks Frankie (see what they did there?) "Degrassi always seems to give you a second chance," says Paige. "Or third, or fourth, or 500th," says Spinner (see what they did there - again?) She decides to soldier on with her song.
Outside, police cars roll up to the protest, and cops ask them to step back onto the grass. When Lola tells them that the principal gave them permission, they tell her that it's school property and they can't block traffic (what traffic?) or endanger themselves. She fights back, and the officer asks Shay to "muzzle this one." Gross. Instead of continuing to fight, she agrees, but tells the group that she has another plan to get their message inside. In record time, she picks up two gobo lights from her family's restaurant in order to shine messages through the windows into the gala. In the middle of Frankie's solo, the words "Stop Silencing Your Students" and "Racism Lives Here" project onto the walls for all to see. She stops dead in her tracks and runs off stage. When Tristan scolds the audience for not letting her feel safe on the stage, Mo counters that Tristan did the exact same thing to him, Manny, and other students.
This revelation inspires him to go outside, grab Lola, and invite her to speak. She assures them she's not mad at Degrassi, but she doesn't want to believe that stuff like racism happens here. It's scary to talk about it, but we should. Later, Simpson hears their argument, and while he still doesn't feel like Tiny's punishment was unfair, they should talk about it. He encourages them to lead a student committee to examine the zero-tolerance policy. One person who won't be on that committee? Frankie, who gets the last scene as she walks away from the school after her botched performance, vowing never to return to Degrassi again.